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23-12-2015 The Golden Age

Just occasionally I think about how the TV that is available today (on demand, 24/7 whenever you want, no censor ship, stuff like iZombie, Top Gear, The Smoking Tire, The Slingshot Channel... just staggeringly good) would have seemed to childhood me back in the 1980s..

(1970s me would not have realized just how much better the shows are, but would probably have appreciated the on demand fantasticness) ...errr where was I (probably shouldn't write elaborate posts after my 3rd highball of burbon...)

Anyway... modern TV, in the sense of internet based, pirate baysed, (spot the pun) level video technology. It's at a level that if I had to describe it to me and my friends back in 1987... I'm not sure I would believe how good it is.

18-12-2015 Christmas in December

Office Christmas Party

With the every growing demand for workplace christmas party venues, work ended up booking on a Wednesday, (Friday is the most popular, then Thursday, then ...)

Following poor experiences over previous years with alcohol running out and/or being limited to cheap wine, we decided some "pre-gaming" was required.

So, at 10 am, we sat down in the office cafeteria to adjust our blood chemistry.

The rules were simple.

  1. Everyone bring a bottle. Whisky was suggested, but whiskey was also acceptable, as were other spirits.
  2. You will be judged on the quality of what you bring.
  3. Judged harshly.
  4. Don't be so loud that Human Resources can hear what is going on.
  5. If you get drunk enough to do something stupid, this will be videoed and emailed to everyone.
  6. Don't tell THOSE people. We all knew who they were. The sort who think that doing shots at 10 am at work is probably against the rules or something.

So I dug through the back of my liquor store until I found a bottle of Moutai. Now I don't like Moutai, but at $200/bottle I thought it met any reasonable standards, and so I brought it.

It wasn't quite up to the level of the guy who brought a liter bottle of Johnny Walker Blue label though. And judging by the fact that the JW Blue was used up, and the Moutai is almost still full, everyone kind of agreed with my taste.

The result was that my teeth were buzzing by 10:30 am, and I was able to maintain that state through to about 7 pm. Whereapon I gradually tapered down and was quite sober by the time I went to bed.

Success!

09-12-2015 Japan

Coffee

So far they seem to have a US style petroleum byproduct type coffee. Though being Japanese they do it much better than the yanks do.

Following my California experiences I bought some New Zealand coffee bags when I was in Oz and brought them with me. The result is much superior to Japanese coffee.

However the one Japanese thing that was not as least "above average" in quality is the rubbish kettle in the hotel room. I see why Japan developed a complex ceremony where it takes 3 hours to make tea: It takes that long to boil the water. Probably due to the ridiculous 120 Volt American style power supply.

Controls

The hotel also gave me a detailled English instruction book for the air conditioning system, which has an on button, an up button, and a down button. But meanwhile the toilet has a complex graphical user interface with several controls that I was only able to use because I can read some Chinese and they use the same characters for some words.

Power

Meanwhile the toilet control system (!) is plugged into the only plug in the suite that takes a 3-prong plug. So I have to power down the toilet to plug in my laptop recharger. And then boot up the toilet again to, you know, use the toilet.

Fashion

I was slightly concerned that Japanese might be one of those places where everyone wears a full suit to business meetings, but no, it turns out that socks with sandles are more their speed. Seriously, multiple people wearing socks with sandles in business meetings.

Toilets

Not only was the computerized hotel toilet so complex that one of the Japanese guys had to ask me how to use some functions, but the public toilets in the park were missing at least one feature that is common in Australian toilets.

Walls.

Or rather, there were walls, but they were open latticework. Anyone could see right in to the urinal. I've heard the French have something similar.

01-12-2015 Made it to December

Which means trousers at work are now optional till New Years. Chinese New Year.

You still need pants of some sort, dammit, but shorts or bike pants are OK providing you aren't out visiting other companies.

Which of course I am. Such as in...

California

A week in California. Not bad, and work pays for both food and alcohol if they are bought at a restaurant. The californians know about this sort of thing, so they have a wide variety of "restaurants" that provide spicy snacks and beer and margaritas and tequila and other food groups.

As the sign out the front put it

Soup of the Day: Tequila!

Of course drinking was made more difficult by the fact that not only were we driving, but we were driving on the wrong side of the road (a problem) in a car with all the controls on the wrong side (a bigger problem) and it was a camry (the worst problem). So we had to swap back and forth being the designated driver.

I only had to stop on the side of a San Diego freeway to throw up once. So that was cool. It was either the bottomless Sangria they serve in the Escape Fish Cafe, or being in a Camry. One of the two.

I finally got to try a decent tequila. Don Julio 1942. At $168/bottle this isn't the sort of tequila you do shots with. Not at my pay scale*. You sip it. And it is fantastic. I tried to get some duty free on the way home, but they didn't have it in stock. I then found that it's much the same price in Australia, duty paid.

*OK, at my payscale I do shots with Moutai Baiju from China, and that is even more exxy at about $200/bottle. But it's horrible to sip that rubbish. I would never pay for that myself.

Which leads to the question of what shall I drink and buy when I go to...

Japan

...tomorrow. This time I'm pricing the Australian spirit shops so I know what to stock up on.

The other advantage of international travel is that I have dozens of hours to catch up on

  1. All the movies that have come out. I find it difficult to justify going to a movie when I know it's going to be free in a couple of months, so unless dearest wife wants to go with me, I just let them slide.
  2. All the TV shows that have been released. Aeroplanes have a nice selection of good TV, so you can see what you should pirate err buy from itunes when you get home.
  3. Those TV shows that people go on about. The last one being My Little Pony. Which turns out to be a little kids show? Why on earth are adults talking about this as though it's something special???

The net result of this is that I see that I Zombie is well worth a look. That the star of that show Rose Maciver is well worth several looks. And that The Smoking Tyre is much more mainstream than I would have guessed from being a youtube only show about modified cars being driven illegally fast on public roads.

09-11-2015 Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Recommended by many, many people. Appears on all sorts of lists such as "Best fiction books of the last 100 years". etc. etc.

I just don't see why.

It's one of those complex books with several different streams of narrative that tie together at the end. And the narratives aren't told in chronological order either. The idea is to make the reader have to think and work to put it all into a coherent whole.

But it's been done by many authors (William Gibson's original cyberpunk trilogy, or Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and/or Baroque Cycle spring to mind.) And those authors had each little bit being entertaining. This was just dull, overly detailed descriptions of dull weird people being dull and weird.

I made it through about 3 hours of the book (10% of the total) and have no motivation to keep going.

22-10-2015 Suspicious

Driving home last night, a police vehicle was coming the other way. OK. But then I noticed that they pulled a u-turn and were following me...

Ooops! Hmm... let's see. I'm not speeding. My headlights seem to be both working. I'm fairly sure both tail lights were working last time I checked, about a couple of months ago... what is up?

I scanned everything and everywhere, and then I saw it. Sitting at the side of the road, in the dark, half concealled by some plants, was a temporary sign. ROADWORK. 40 SPEED LIMIT Ah ha!

Smoothly I slowed down and crawled past the roadworks sign at 40.0 km/h. And continued to crawl along at the ridiculously slow limit.

For about half a km we crawled along the dark deserted street, with me sticking religiously to the temporary speed limit. The cops must have been gnashing their teeth in frustration as I escaped their trap. Finally they turned down a side street and disappeared.

It almost goes without saying that there were no roadworks. Just the sign.

20-10-2015 Bach'n

Dear wife is on another work trip, so I'm cooking for myself again. Resulting in coversations at work.

You looking after yourself?

Sure. I made a nice salad for dinner last night.

What was in it?

It was a simple salad. Cactus, lemon and salt.

Agave cactus?

Oh! You're familiar with...

Tequila shots?

Lemon's a fruit. Agave is a vegetable.

I see no problem

02-10-2015 Back from Europe Again

I just spent another month in Beijing, Paris, London and Shanghai. China is getting a bit familiar, but Paris is still a thrill, and London was both a first time for me and highly recommended. It's about the same as Paris, but easier to understand.

I came back with a series of half literate comments, as below:

The Sydney cbd seems to have half a dozen or do "adult bookshops". How is that even possible?

It's not like buggy whip shops. More like sliderule shops. The fundamental application is still in demand, but everyone already has multiple electronic devices( from their desktops, at home, at work, in their pockets...). That perform the same function much more effectively.

So Sydney having several sliderule shops within a few blocks would be... Weird.

Conclusion: they are actually making their money from some other product or service. Some product or service where you would rather people think you sold dirty magazines.

The coffee shop near dear wife's Beijing shop features waitresses wearing T-shirts labelled Flat White. No she isn't.

Go ahead and tell me about how oppressed you are, from your iPhone. Laugh! Needless to say, several replies proceeded to do just that.

In a boutique beer bar in Shanghai (because it's a Thursday) and the blonde Chinese singer is very good. She has a white American country accent for the country and western songs. A deep American negro accent for the gospel and Motown. And a generic USA accent for generic pop songs. But when. It comes to "it's all about the base" she has it completely wrong. She has a body that could just about do the song justice(at least by Chinese standards) but she just doesn't understand what the song is actually about. First hint is that she's singing "it's all about the bass, the bass, the bass: no trouble" which makes more sense than the real lyrics... If you don't get the subtext.

Pinks 's "you and your hand tonight" on the other hand.... She has even less clue.

John cougar Melon Camp's "Hurt so good" on the other hand. I have no idea what that song is supposed to mean so who knows if she got it right?

As usual. It isn't a matter of getting better at Chinese. As having alcohol reduce everyone's language ability down to the point where my Chinese is equal to say Klaus's English.

Reading collapse by Jared diamond. Unlike his previous Guns Germs and Steel he neglected to be continuously refering to silly straw man arguments throughout the book. So it wasn't clear how seriously the reader should take the detailed facts backing up what are ( as before ) a well written overall thesis.

But he had as his last case study Australia. And I know perfectly well that when someone argues that hardly any Aussie agriculture is cost competitive with the rest of the world. .. Well he's stretching and bending the truth so far that it has snapped long ago.

As usual. When I finally give a so called reasonable green viewpoint a fair go. I find I should have just spent the time hotting up my car. Or cutting down trees. Or eating bacon or something.

Well the local shanghai newspaper tells me that tomorrow is international don't drive a car day. I'll be home by then, So in honor I'll take my hotted up ute for As fang.

27-07-2015 Christmas Party

Saturday I went to a Christmas party.

This is part of a thing that seems to be new for this year, called Christmas in July.

Christmas has a whole bunch of cultural baggage that is associated with winter and snow. This doesn't really work in the Southern Hemisphere. So, the idea is to have a second Christmas, in July, when it is cold and the snow stuff sort of works.

Given that the Chinese have given us a second New Year, it's really the next logical step.

Anyway, the 25th of July saw the pubs of Sydney filled with various groups, wearing Santa hats and associated Christmas jumpers, wandering around drinking. The truly organized (such as ourselves) had a planned route with 12 pubs of Christmas.

I made it to 11 of them. Not because I bailled at the end, but because I was delivering a stereo I'd sold to some guy in Parramatta and so turned up with about 30 seconds left for the first pub. (Our planned route had a timetable as well as a map. Organisation plus!) So I just went straight to the second pub.

All went well until the night was over and I had to get back home via public transport. Which, like public toilets or public housing, is a very poor cousin to the private stuff. We finished drinking at the last pub at 9, I got home at 12:14. Including a 7 km walk from the train station.

I found out that those santa hats are actually really good at keeping your head warm on a cold night. No wonder the elves wear them in the North Pole.

So now we are planning for Easter in October...

20-07-2015 Ribs and Movies

Apollo 13

The more you read about Apollo 13 the more you realize what a waste the movie that was made about it was. There was HEAPS of amazing things that happened, so naturally they edited out 90% of them from the story. And then they needed to bulk out the movie to fit the full 90 minutes, so they added all this sobby teary emotional filler. They could have filled in all that wasted time with stuff about resonances in the engines and people who forgot to upgrade heaters to match new voltage supplies and whacky accidentally opening the doors at the wrong time when it turned out to be the thing that saved their lives and ... all sorts of actual stuff.

Bones

Went to the snow this year. I've been skiing a few times, and would really need some fairly hard core (by the standards of beginners only!) ski trails to pose a challenge. So I tried out snowboarding for the first time.

Result: Broken ribs on the first day.

So I refunded my lift ticket and equipment hire (always, ALWAYS rent from somewhere actually at the ski resort you will be at. Sure it's cheaper to rent from off site (IF (and only if) you know where to go) but if-and-when something goes wrong, you need to be able to rock up to stagger into the rental place in person to fix the problem. This ranges from a ski-stopping injury (case in point) through to a simple board binding breaking, or even just deciding that you got the wrong size/type/whatever. If you know enough about snow sports to be able to bypass all those problems, then you know more than me and can disregard my advice.)

So... I'm left sitting around a ski resort with nothing much to do except drink, watch TV, and read a book. I'm glad I brought some books, those ski resorts are dead boring without the actual snow activities. Yeah I know that they are meant to be party central, but I am too old, too married, was staying with my parents and nephew/niece so coming home plastered would be inappropriate, I wasn't feeling the best (broken ribs you know) and even when I was at uni I never really was any good at just rocking up to a party with nobody I knew and just joining in. I'm probably better now, after all I was sitting in a bar for about 1 minute by myself before I was chatting to a lady called Boopy. Or maybe Bobby with a weird accent? Which was probably a lifetime record for me in the meeting a chick at a bar stakes, but it isn't my thing.

So what did I learn?

At least one person suggested, or at least hinted at suggesting, that maybe I should have learned to be more gay-arse scaredy-cat careful. But I disagree. I get a fun-related injury that needs medical treatment maybe 1 time in 5 years on average. That sounds about right to me. More than that is just too painful and debilitating, but much less than that is just being the sort of wimp who never has any fun.

How to prevent pain using this one weird trick

Weird Drug What it does My story Why the so-called medical establishment trys to stop you using it
Toothpaste Put toothpaste on a painful burn and the soothing cold of mint will drop the pain by a factor of 5 or so. I had a steam burn on my thumb. It was so painful I couldn't get to sleep. After hours of lying there in pain someone suggested toothpaste. I didn't believe it, but it was free to try... and it was spectacularly successful. The medical experts seem to think that everyone is such an idiot that they'd put toothpaste on a fresh, still hot burn instead of cold water. The cold water is needed to cool the hot area down, but after 20 minutes of cold water there isn't any heat left. None. After a couple of hours? Don't be stupid. Alternatively, if the skin is actually burned off, then don't start putting toothpaste into the raw wound.
Quinine Stops muscle cramps. Like within an hour or so when the cramps have lasted for days. The broken ribs were setting off muscle cramps, which loaded the broken ribs, which HURT. Wikipedia suggested that the US FDA had recently cracked down on people using quinine for cramps, so that was worth a try. The alternative is Valium but you need a prescription for that in our police-state-like medical system. Quinine you can get from the supermarket at 2 am in the form of Tonic water. The FDA seems to think that people will load up heavy doses of quinine for months or years, and this can lead to allergies and hypersensitivities and other stuff. (Also leads to less malaria, but not an issue in the 1st world.) As usual, don't be an idiot and you can treat the medical warnings as a guideline, not a blanket taboo.

02-07-2015 Poor Richard

Poor Richards Alamac by Benjamin Franklin.

This is a famous book? By a guy meant to be the intellectual equal of guys like Hooke or Euler? Really? It seems to be just a series of random sentences. Just recording when Ben sat down drank a dozen ciders and said whatever came to mind.

Ok maybe 5% of the sentences are a combination of sounding wise while being memorable. And these are the ones that make this one of the 5 main sources of common sayings.

And even with the wise and clever sayings, an annoying number of them contradict eachother. All the ones about not being greedy or miserly, contradicting the ones about concentrating on saving your money and making sure you work and save to become rich.

However about 20% of the quips don't make any sense at all. I'll grant that maybe half of them DID make sense in the 18th century. When everyone was experienced with a range of candle types maybe a line about how they smell did point to something important. The way we would understand a comment about radio waves or something.

But that still leaves 10% that were just random.

Then 70% were kind of jokes. Where the punch line is something like "men don't like their wives" or, as a brilliant alternative, "women don't like their husbands" or "people commit adultery" or "women talk too much" . Now maybe these were brilliant and fresh observations in 1733 and so provoked gales of laughter... But seeing as similar punch lines were used by Shakespeare (1600) or Geoffrey Chaucer (1370s) I very much doubt they were new in 1733.

The only one that I remember as being new and interesting was something like "someone who has nothing to worry about will worry about nothing." Which we now refer to as "1st world problems."

Another line of interest was " happy are those times and places the history of which is undiverting. " which we have morphed into a fake Chinese curse of "May you live in interesting times. "

He also recommends weight training.

Responsible Service of Alcohol

Doing a training course in alcohol law, we are subject to anti alcohol propaganda from the abc show 4 Corners. What vile tripe that program is. The first thing I notice is that there is background music: chosen with as much care as any movie score to produce the desired emotion in the audience.

When a "bad guy" is on the screen we want scary music. When the "good guy" is talking then happy restful tunes.

After all the point of news programs is to present a point of view that the voter should adopt.

No wonder I've not watched it for decades.

A bbc production on the same subject was a fresh breath of facts and data. Despite a similar attitude to propaganda.

22-06-2015 Gourmet

Malibu coconut rum drink. What is it good for?

Well it turns out that the commonly accepted answer (making second year university students throw up and swear off rum for life) is only part of the answer.

It also makes a fine addition to coffee. The sickening sweetness is diluted and offset by the bitter coffee and the result is rather good.

I had been wondering how the company could stay in business with the previous business model of one purchase per university student per life.

Review: Mad Max

Meh. The level of mayhem that was awesome a few decades ago isn't impressive today. They weren't even filming on public roads the way they did in the old days.

And they EXPLICITY stated, in the movie, that Max was the original Max who was a cop decades ago, before the world collapsed. Which would have worked if they had got Mel Gibson back to play the part. But instead they got some young fellow who was clearly much the same age as the heroine who was too young to remember before the collapse.

On the bright side, they had the old Falcon back. As the driver of a two door falcon myself, I approve. But it didn't do anything really impressive, I disapprove.

And I liked the way they handled the fact that the heroine had only 1 arm. They just had it on screen, and that was it. No big deal, no talk about how "brave" she is. Nothing. A huge improvement over most shows.

Lastly, like movies 2 and 3, this movie had people rebuilding a bit of civilization and technology in the wilderness. And unlike movies 2 and 3, this movie didn't destroy said bit of development at the end of the movie and pretend that was a good thing. This time everyone realized that the tiny bit of industry and agriculture was the best thing around, and so it needed to be siezed, not destroyed. Also there were references to two other bits of development in the desert that they traded with. So that was a good sign.

Bravery 2

Friday afternoon beer tasting with the workmates. Someone broke out the snacks so of course I went back to my desk, got one of the remaining Naga Ghost chiles, used a (cleaned!) scalpel to slice it into paper thin waffers, and spread them out artistically on a little plate. Then I brought them back and presented them to the beering comittee with the words "Warning: Do NOT be brave!"

Not everyone heeded the warning.

C. was dismissive of the danger as she was a) A big chili enthusiast and b) Had a terrible cold and couldn't taste anything. After one slice she was wide eyed with enthusiasm over a simple fruit that could clear out congestion that had resisted the most advanced pharmacuticals that us peasants are allowed to purchase in Australia. She and I had several more slices. With lots of cold beer.

On the other hand, O. responded by leaping from his chair, running to the kitchen, downing several cups of water from the tap, and when that didn't help, switching to a bottle of milk from the coffee fridge. To the great amusement of everyone else who could see him through the glass wall.

Most people were either partway between those two reactions, or they heeded the warning and merely sniffed the aroma... declaring that even the scent was too much for their tastes.

I received a plaintive text at 10 pm that night from a non chili enthusiast who was still suffering from one transparently thin sliver. And it seems he had managed to get it in his eye, which is not the recommended method of intake.

Review: Avengers 2

Not as good as number 1. But I liked that this time Iron Man didn't dominate the story as much. Hulk/Banner came out as the smart and educated man he should be.

And Robert Downey (Iron Man) looked about 10 to 15 years older than he did in the movies filmed last year. Maybe he is back to operating with Chemical Assistance? Or maybe he has stopped?

Review: Fast and Furious 7

Yes, what I expected and wanted from such a movie.

Except that they spent about 1/3 of the movie treating the ex-cop character (Paul Walker) as though he was about to die. Yes, I know that in REAL LIFE the actor was about to die/had already died. (He died during the filming, in (no great surprise) a car crash.) So all those scenes were edited and half were filmed after he was dead, and all his friends were sad. But in the story he wasn't going to die. So the fact that everyone is treating him as though he is about to die just didn't work.

And if you know about that, you do tend to notice that in half the scenes he is one of the two main characters... and in half the scenes he doesn't really do anything. Which is what you get if the actor dies after only half the filming is complete.

The final scene was good though. The two main characters are just racing along together, side by side, for fun, and then Paul Walker's character just suddenly turns off onto a different road and drives off into the distance by himself. Still racing, still living the dream, but no longer with the rest of them. That was an excellent way to send him off.

It reminded me of how the Patrick O'Brien naval books ended. The two main characters were at the peak of their careers, the Captain had just been made Admiral and was sailing in his favourite ship, with his best friend, in perfect weather, to take up his new command. His life long career dream finally realized. And that's when the author died. A perfect ending spot.

18-06-2015 Naga Ghost

Bravery

No, not eating a whole Ghost Naga Chili after my boss brought some in as a dare. There was no real danger there, and I'd been practicing over the weekend by swigging Dave's Scorpion Venom straight from the bottle.

Which let's face it, I was likely to do anyway.

No, bravery is when you've just built up a complex fluidic structure using laser cut sheets of perspex assembled with superglue and silicon chip adhesive tape, and then you test the airtightness by blocking the coolant holes with your fingers and blowing air into the feed spigot with your mouth.

The prospect of getting a resonant box superglued to your lips is far more worrying than merely flooding the inside of your body with 1.3 million scoville unit juice.

18-05-2015 Mutually incompatible

I find myself noticing mutually incompatible standards of courtesy.

What would be considered polite in one social circle is actively impolite in another, and vice versa.

For example mangling your pronouns to allow for the possibility of nontraditional male/female status. For some people this is the polite way to do it, for many others it would be offensive to suggest that this might be a possibility.

Even more weird is that wishing someone "Merry Christmas" is apparently ungood in some circles.

Scott Adams writing a joke that includes the word douchebag but thinking some would be offended because the joke refers to drinking games. (On the other hand, Scott A. has a history of deliberately saying things just to get a reaction or to see if anyone notices.)

Dan Shrive writing a story about underage sèx, homosèxuality and transèxuality in school children and somehow he thinks the Dresden files would be a bit much for some of his audience. I don't even have a guess as to what he thinks would be objectionable.

In conclusion, if writing or speaking for a broad audience, you are going to offend somebody. So just decide who you like the least.

11-05-2015 Eggs

My continuing quest to cook light, fluffy egg concoctions for breakfast while not actually putting any work in* suffered another setback today due to excessive cold.

All was fine until I cracked the final egg into the bowl... only to find it was frozen solid. The egg that was sitting next to it in the egg carton was fine, but I guess they came from different hens, with slightly different salts and protein content, and so that one was 0.5° above its freezing point while the other was 0.5° below the freezing point.

Anyway, this meant that I had to pop the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds, and then another 30 seconds, to warm up the liquid enough so I could thaw out the frozen egg prior to mixing it with all the other eggs.

And this meant that when I proceeded to cook the bowl as standard, it was already partly done, and so the final result was clearly over cooked and rubbery.

OK Chickens... you won this round...**

*College Motto: Victoria sine labore

**Maybe the chickens are forming an alliance with the Turkeys?

08-05-2015 Turkey

Woke up this morning, looked out my back door. There was a wild turkey scratching at my lawn.

So I grabbed my Glock G19 pistol from where I keep it at the back door and took a few shots. The turkey got annoyed and flew into a neighbour's yard.

Hmmm... need to improve my pre-coffee markmanship before a Cassowary or something turns up.

20-04-2015 Steering

Working with a selection of engineers from the cream of Australian industry, I was able to track down the actual guys who designed the steering in my ute, and ask them how to adjust it to be tighter, more direct, and basically more like the BMW. The standard steering was set up to allow 45kg 80 year old women to steer it, because a Falcon is a mass produced family car and you are going to get customers like that. I find it far, far too light. I once drove down a twisty mountain road in a car that had the power steering cut out on me partway down... and I was fine with that. I just don't need power assistance.

Their answer was that, in theory, you could strip down the power steering, machine up a stiffer torsion spring, and rebuilt it to take out a lot of the power assistance and vagueness that was deliberately designed in... but any sensible person would just get a smaller steering wheel.

A smaller wheel will give a bigger steering input for the same movement of your hands. This means that the steering feels sharper, the car responds more to your movements. It also means that the vague, on center, slop (known as "the sneeze factor") occupies fewer millimeters of hand movement, and so feels smaller. And lastly the steering feels heavier so it's like there is more feel in there.

An added bonus is that a cheap chinese sports steering wheel is brand new for less money than a second hand original wheel, which I kind of needed anyway as my old wheel was just about at the point of wearing through the plastic covering.

So, as the photo shows, I got this little baby. It was not actually the smallest or most awesome looking wheel available, but I wanted something that wasn't going to stand out too much. Our hated overlords are stupidly strict about car modifications and I didn't want an obvious part like the steering to be clearly a Chinese ebay special.

$40 including delivery. Chinese ebay sellers are a huge source of cheap, cheap stuff.

Of course you also need a hub adaptor that connects the standard aftermarket wheel to the specialized, individual steering column that your car came with. This is what put me off getting a wheel earlier, and for that matter getting one for my old Nissan 300zx*. But now there was cheap ebay hub adaptors too, with a "Suitable for all Fords" model for $14.

Naturally, it turns out that "suitable for all Fords" was, as we say in the sales and marketing industry, "puffery". A legal term that tries to excuse saying utter lies. I contacted the seller, sent a bunch of photos demonstrating that it wasn't even the same SHAPE as the ford steering it was supposed to fit, and, to be fair, got a 100% refund. So, to be clear, this was a wrong claim on the seller's part but they were completely ready to refund the money once I pointed it out.

I did actually look to see if I could buy the correct model but they just do not seem to make Falcon, 1992-98, compatible hubs outside of a handful of limited Australia only, boutique brands. At about 10 times the price of the one I'd just bought. So... then, a few hours work with a file and dremel changed that fitting problem.

Once installed, I discovered another bonus that I wasn't aware of previously. With a smaller steering wheel in front of me, I've now got all this extra room in the space between me and the dashboard. There is another couple of cm between the top of my legs and the bottom of thewheel, there is more room around the wheel... it's like I've moved into a bigger car. And I was in a Falcon to begin with. I didn't really need more room. Now it feels like the cabin of a medium truck. But this is something to keep in mind if you are driving a Lotus or something.

The steering? Just as advertised. It feels sharper, more direct, and heavier. The new wheel also feels more special than the worn old one. And a steering wheel is something you are interacting with every second of driving (or at least, it should be!)

Disadvantages? It took about a week before the control stalks, the indicator, wiper controls and gear lever came naturally to the finger tips with my hands on the new wheel. But it's OK now.

More annoyingly, in my normal seat position I can no longer see the top of my speedo or tacho. I've had to lean my seat a little further back, and I'm learning where the needle is pointing just by looking at the bottom part of the needle... and I'm still working on that.

Overall, it's been a good move, and I've no inclination to go back (which would be 5 minutes work now that I've gotten to know the attachment procedure.)

*Having tried it out now, I really should have bitten the bullet and gotten one for the 300zx. Even though in those dark ages before 2005 the wheels and hub adaptors were maybe $100 more than what I ended up paying in 2015.

26-03-2015 Breakfast Again

As mentioned below my breakfast soufflès have not been rising and staying risen as they should. So I decided to try again, but with more aggressive heat.

Sadly, after breaking egg number 4 into the bowl, I accidentaly cracked egg number 5. So I had to add that too. And then there was only 1 egg left in the carton, so that should go in as well. And my recipie that almost works for 4 eggs, doesn't really work for 6.

Result: It rose on the outside, but not in the center.

Meanwhile, on The Smoking Tyre

Things are looking up. Not only have I encountered some more reviews where he clearly criticizes some basic points of the car, I actually found one where he straight out says that the car is no good at all. More evidence that these are actually reviews, which can be used to gather information, rather than mere cheerleading, which can be used for... actually there is no known use.

Also, there are more details about how the cars go through a pre-screening process, to only test the ones that are highly likely to be interesting and fun. Which goes a long way to explaining how you can have almost every car be way above average.

The car that was no good at all? A Camry.

23-03-2015 Time Waste

Go to Youtube, search for "The Smoking Tyre", recover consciousness 10 hours later wondering where all the time went.

It's as good as the best parts of Top Gear, without the boring bits like the "Star (that you've never heard of) in a Reasonably Priced Car".

And unlike the poms, these guys are perfectly happy to test modified cars, to compare a modified car to a stock car*, and things like that. One test that was very interesting was a 2003 BMW M3 versus a brand new Ford Fiesta ST. Why those two? Because they are both available at the end of 2014 for the same price ($22k), so yes, they are comparable. And the Fiesta won. (Another thing that would NEVER happen on Top Gear.)

The only thing that makes me dubious about the whole thing is that so far I've never seen a review in which the conclusion is anything other than positive. A reviewer who doesn't mark at least half the reviewees as below average is not really a reviewer, just a cheerleader. He does criticize individual traits of the cars though. This one has no power down low, that one is too small to fit into, that one has such small pedal space that the reviewer had to take his shoes off (!), the other has nasty torque steer.

Developing.

* There is a peculiar argument that I see around the place that you can't compare a modified car to a stock car, because reasons. The actual reasons themselves tend to be very vague, largely that given enough time, money and talent any old Corolla with enough modifications could be made to beat a new Corvette**. I don't see the problem: if you list the modifications and the time and money required to replicate them, then yes, they are comparable. Especially if the modification package is either a given Tuner package, able to be ordered, or a simple recipie that can be copied.

** Comparison between old Corolla and a Corvette was chosen because The Smoking Tyre featured a HIGHLY modified Corolla that beat all but the newest and hottest Corvettes at some Californian sports car competition. When I say "Corolla" they point out that by weight it is more Lexus SC400 than anything else. But the outer shell was originally Corolla.

19-03-2015 Breakfast

My soufflè fell today as I opened the oven door.

These are the times that try men's souls.

Women, on the other hand, usually take so long getting ready in the morning that they don't have time to cook themselves a 4 egg soufflè for breakfast. But there's no helping some people.

25-02-2015 Following on from the last entry

Ooorrr..... I could be lazy and just increase the weights.

19-02-2015 Start of Lent

So no bikkies this morning, just a double expresso with a shot of chilli powder.

Actually this is good!

Though I'm even more fond of a quadrupple ristreto. But that's too much effort.

And I've FINALLY hit the gym for the first time this year. Since before Christmas actually. I'm just getting into it, so I've only done 3x3 clean and press, followed by an overhead weighted carry, so far. But this morning (2nd work out) was easy enough to tell me I should add some chins and deads and/or squats.

12-02-2015 Hobbit, part 3

As I've been maintaining for years, big blockbuster action movies are just getting better and better. This is no exception.

However, the other thing that has been getting better and better, free video on youtube, means that I am now educated enough about pre-firearm weaponry to spot the errors in the fight scenes.

To start with the most annoying - armour. The Battle of the Five Armies, as the name suggests, is largely a movie about a big battle, and most of the armies feature soldiers in extensive plate armour. But their armour doesn't appear to do anything.

In a fight between a soldier dressed in a leather jerkin, no helmet, no plate, and an opponent clad in heavy plate armour, they are both using swords and the blows from the swords are equally deadly to both of them.

So. What. Is. The. Plate. Armour. For???

Do they like the look and don't care about the weight and discomfort? Have they run out of normal cloth and this is the only material they have to produce clothing from? Is is actually very lightweight paper-mache armour that just looks like steel?

In the real world, plate armour was heavy, uncomfortable, confining and VERY expensive. And it worked. A normal sword would not penetrate or cut plate armour. That was the whole point. People who fought against armoured soldiers had to develop whole new weapons, like maces and war-hammers and pole arms to be able to smash and crush plate armour. Because a sword would mostly just slide off. Sure you could get very lucky, and/or highly skilled, and drive the point of a sword into a gap between the plates. But it was nothing like these fight scenes where you just slash at the armour and it cuts the guy's head off or goes straight through the plate into his chest or something.

I'll note that heaps of characters in the movie had maces and war hammers and axes and other such anti-plate-armour weapons. But the guy next to him, with a sword, is just as effective.

A minor point is that the maces and war hammers are much, much bigger than what is actually used in real life, where such weapons are usually ranging from under 1kg through to a maximum of about 1.5 kg for the one handed models, up to 2-2.5 kg for the two handed weapons. Maybe 3 to 4 kg for what was used as a pole arm. But I'm prepared to let this slide, because most of the people in this story are not homo sapiens. They are dwarves, and elves, and orcs, and their strength to weight ratios are explicitly stated to be better than humans. Though with the orcs and trolls we clearly see that they are clumsy and losing control because the weapons they are swinging are too heavy. However, once again, not a homo sapien. Maybe that's as precise and accurate as orcs can be? In which case, give them bigger and heavier weapons because a heavy weapon, swung clumsily, is probably better than a light weight weapon swung clumsily. I'll also grant that clumsy, off-balance, swings might be the best you'll do if you've been fighting for an hour and you are completely exhausted.

Another minor point is that you do NOT take your helmet off in the middle of the battle, even if you have really nice long blong hair. A single arrow or thrown weapon, or even a rock could kill you. A mistaken backswing from the guy next to you could end your battle. A dozen different accidents could be critical even without a deliberate enemy strike. If you are going to wear any armour at all, a helmet is the one you wear. (See world wars 1 and 2). But that makes it harder for the movie audience to keep track of who is who, so...

A point that might slide through, but doesn't, is another movie issue of people using a war bow where they draw the arrow back, aim it, and then wait for the right moment. They can stand there with the bow fully drawn for a minute or so. No. Not with a war bow. You can't hold a war bow at full stretch. Those things are HEAVY. Human war bows range from about 120 pounds to 200 pounds draw weight (55 to 90 kg). That's just too heavy to hold in the drawn position. Now, once again, we can say "Oh, but these are elves, they are much stronger than humans." But in that case, human military history seems to indicate that they would move up to heavier, stronger, longer range bows. Not stick with a light weight bow (by elf standards) just so they can hold it in aiming position for dramatic reasons.

Actually, now that I've typed it out, I AM prepared to let the elf bow holding slide. We see that the elf bows are actually powerful enough to kill even the great big trolls, and punch straight through the paper plate armour of the orcs, so unless they are trying for more range they really might well have sacrificed more power for easier use and the associated greater accuracy. Yeah, that works.

The other case of holding a bow at full stretch waiting for the right moment was a human. But it is not clear that he was using a war bow. He may well, in fact is more likely to, have been using a hunting bow, and depending on the target animal a hunting bow can easily be lightweight enough to hold fully drawn.

I'll note that you can use a warbow that is much, much heavier than a hunting or target bow, because you aren't trying to hit a narrow bullseye or a specific animal in the center of its chest. With a war bow you are aiming at a crowd of 300 men. That's a big target. Not much precise aiming required. This is a bit of speculation on my part, but we have clear explanations of later weapons, such as WWI era rifles, where that was an explicit factor in the range/power/accuracy calculations. Though it does seem that men trained in the heavy war bows for a many years grow to be fairly accurate with them anyway.

The other problem being the standard movie issue of armies fighting as a collection of individuals. We have a battle starting with rows of perfectly disciplined elf or dwarf troops lined up into a neat shield wall. Then as soon as the unorganized mass of orcs get close, they break up their shield wall and tackle the orcs one-by-one. THAT'S NOT WHAT A SHIELD WALL IS FOR!!! A shield wall is specifically designed to defeat an unorganized mass of orcs, and the whole point is that you maintain the wall so that each soldier is defending the guys next to him. A solid phalanx has been shown to defeat unorganized mobs of warriors time and time again, so why do you throw away the advantage?

Lastly, at the start of the battle, you have a shield wall of dwarves facing an onrushing army of orcs, with ranks of elvish bowmen (bowelves?) standing behind the dwarves. So do the elves send massed volleys of arrows over the dwarves into the onrushing orcs? Or do they put their bows away, draw their swords, and jump over the dwarves to tackle the orcs one-on-one? Guess.

11-02-2010 More about Holidays

The streets in these old European cities are very narrow. You see something like a Porsche 911, which in Australia is a fairly small and manouverable car, and it's a big bus in Paris that has to slow down all the time to squeeze past parked vehicles and ancient rock walls.

So the little Peugeot 205 GTi, which is considered a tiny car in Oz, is about as big as you'd want to go in France. And the Smart 2Four, which is a joke in Sydney, suddenly turns into a perfectly reasonable design that offers a faster point to point time than a 911 Porsche, just because it doesn't have to slow down all the time to avoid hitting things. I even saw a Renault Twizzy, which isn't even a car in Australia, and I thought "You know, that makes sense here." And if it came with a real engine, from a 1 liter Ducatti for example, then it would be a hoot.

This highlights the somewhat strange lack of narrow, small footprint supercars. Porsche does it, with the Cayman and Boxster to fill in the hole left by the ever larger and bloated 911. And Lotus has the Exige and Elise, which I think are absolute bargains compared to their competition. And there's the Audi TT. And as with every thing else, whenever Porsche or Audi bring out a new model, they make it wider and longer, which in their home territory (ie. the Cities of Europe) makes them SLOWER, not faster.

But these tend to be "sports cars", not "super cars". When the same car companies set out to make a real supercar, (Porsche 911 turbo, Lotus Evora, Audi R1) they end up with some fat wide and long thing that looks fantastic, but can't actually drive into the ancient cities they live in. Leaving the Audi TT RS as the only really quick little car. And even that's longer and wider than the (much better looking) original model. Well there is the supercharged versions of the Lotii. Which are just awesome.

This is the same mentality that killed the Australian motor industry.

The newspapers, with their 85 IQ and 2 year event horizons, have pitched this as "Australian's have turned away from their multi-decade love of big cars and now like small cars. For reasons that match our previous biases"

Which is a stupid as anything else the Mainstream Media ever says. What the MSM leaves out is that the "Small cars" that Australians buy now, such as the Mazda 3, are just as big as the "Big cars" that Australians loved in the 1980s or 1970s. It's just that the "big cars" of today are enormous.
YearTypical CarWeightStandard PowerPerformance Model Power
1974Holden HQ Kingswood1340 kg75 kW185 kW
1984Holden VK Commodore1300 kg86 kW185 kW
1994Holden VR Commodore1400 kg130 kW215 kW
2004Ford BA Falcon 1620185 kW260 kW
2014Holden VF Commodore1620 kg185 kW430 kW
2014Mazda 31300 kg108 kW190 kW

That isn't a story of Australians rejecting their traditional large and powerful cars for a smaller, gentler approach. That's a story of Australians sticking with the same size and power outputs, despite changes in the name and brand of the car that offers what they want.

Which brings to mind a car I drove at Christmas. When at the Gold Coast I borrowed a Hyundai Elantra 1.8 that my Dad had rented.

It was really good. The closest thing I can compare it to was a 3 liter Nissan Skyline Silouette from the late 1980s. It was a similar size. It had the same power (despite the engine being half the size). It had sharp steering and a decent interior and fairly decent looks.

If this is the basic just-above-bottom-range car of today, then congratulations. It did understeer when driven much higher speeds around tight corners. But the Skyline would have oversteered. And the choice as to which one is better is a matter of opinion.

I'll point out that if the power was increased from 115kW to say 150 kW (the way the GTS Skylines had back in the day), then the front wheel drive Elantra would have acceleration sapping wheelspin away from a standing start. I've been in more powerful FWD cars and that was a serious flaw. But it didn't have that much power, so the design was appropriate.

Meanwhile, back off the tangent that I seem to have been distracted by

Paris also had a whole lot of 3 wheel scooters (with two wheels at the front). I'm not really sure of the point of them, they are fairly expensive ($8k to $18k Euro in a dealer I saw), and I can't see any advantage they offer over the much, much cheaper two wheel scooters. But there must be something because they were everywhere. Maybe they are much easier to balance when you are going slow?

08-02-2010 Holidays

Paris, France

Cheese eating? Try bread eating. Every meal has plates of the stuff.

Paris? Very good. Just walking around the hotel and you can't go 10 meters without finding some internationally famous building. Or a quaint cafe in a building that was made in 1638 out of polished marble with elaborate painted ceilings.

And ideal to visit in January. Sure the weather is a bit cold and grey. But who goes to Europe for the sunshine? Nobody from Australia does anyway. But going in January gets you everything available. And half price. Just walk in to any fashionable Parisian restaurant There is a table available. The queue to the Eiffle tower or louvre is a matter of a minute not an hour.

A big part of the attraction of the Eiffel Tower is the same as the attraction of motorbikes. You can see how it works. Nothin is hidden under a cover. That appeals a lot especially to a person like me.

The Louvre. You could spend a whole day looking with a amazement at this building. And then once you've finished. There is a whole bunch of art inside it to look at too. Once again it was January. There was no queue to see The Mona Lisa or anything you just walk in.

Service? All have been fast efficient friendly and quite good at english. P

Dear wife dragged me to a strip joint called the moulin rouge. It was the most spectacular stage show I've ever seen (except for a vast outdoor production in Guilin china. ). And I mean spectacular in the sense of stage costume acrobatic skill etc. the fact that the girls were all dressed in huge headdresses jewelry and a g-string was besides the point. In fact the best performers were the guys (fully dressed) who put on individual acts. There was one girl who did a neat act dancing underwater with a nest of giant snakes but besides her the rest seemed to be compensating for a lack of special talent by being willing to show their nipples on stage. Ok that's probably more real life breasts than I've seen in the rest off my life. But meh!

Barcelona

At least as good as Paris. If you were 50 years old and retiring with $50 million I can see why so many would go to Paris. But if you were 30 you'd pick Barcelona. Maybe Monaco is the perfect compromise?

The traffic in b. is much like china but more relaxed. Like someone went up to every driver in Beijing and told them that "hey. If you are an hour late it is ok". Which explains both the relaxed nature of Spain and their failing economy.

French traffic is about halfway between Spain and china. So is their economy. It's been observed that the reason France is doing as well as it is is that they have managed to convince east Asia that the word "French" is synonymous with "fashionable and the best taste". After two weeks here I can see how they pulled it off. Italy should be able to pull the same trick. Spain also to a much lesser extent.

French music.

The actual show.

Day 2. I am actually. For realz. Walking to work in the snow uphill both ways. ( both ways also include a downhill component).

Our hotel has a motorized shoe cleaner in the lobby. A neat idea but perhaps the same money could have paved or at least gravelled the mud path to the door?

In a dinner again. With the same couple as last year but no hipster son. So this time I got to chat with the dad. And it turns out we have a subject in common.

"I have a E300 Mercedes" he says.

"Oh I have a BMW 530" I reply.

"The 0-100 time is 7.5" he tells me.

"7.1" I reply.

"I like how the 3 liter six revs so smoothly" he continues.

The woman on the other side joins in. "I nice engine car too" she says in broken English.

Only it turns out it's not a 3 liter six.

It's a 4.3 liter

V8

Ferrari

The guy and I stop discussing our cars.

And for the record she was friendly, outgoing, kinda cute and single. I guess she must be a serial killer or something.

28-12-2014 In the Airport

Book Review: Kevin Trudeau Your wish is your command.

Coming back from the Gold Coast holiday I found myself stuck in the Coolangatta airport as bad weather meant the flight was delayed, and delayed, and delayed again. Thus I looked at the only thing still unheard on my iPod and it was a lecture series on using magic to become rich. This report was written on my iphone so excuse the typos.

1. Download a free copy. The guy is a criminal. Don't send him your money.

2. Incredibly long winded. It comes as 14 lectures or so. Can be summarized in half a page. Could be explained in detail in one lecture. The rest is repetition, self promotion, boasting to the point of just being a verbalized fantasy, and encouraging the listener to pay money for more advanced courses.

2.5 Joel Bauer does much the same thing. But provides much more concrete and original material. He still needs a serious editor however(1).

3. However. There is a small core that sounds real and useful. This stuff is not original. He has copied it off other authors over the past century. (To his credit he does acknowledge them. ) in general it's just a rehash of Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Earl Nightingale and a handful of other positive thinking types as has been previously rehashed by The Secret and dozens of others. Kevin just adds in a big world wide multi millennia conspiracy theory to explain why the earlier books or courses didn't work for the sort of repeat offender mark for this sort of thing that is most likely to fork out big money.

4. It is supposed to be recorded in some crowded lecture in a luxury castle in the alps in a seminar involving many superweAlthy and famous people. All available evidence indicates it wa done by one guy, Kevin, in his bedroom.

I also think he has based a lot of his work on the well known success coach MC 900 foot Jesus.

The actual information in the course can be obtained in lectures 2, 6, 8 and 13. His highly repetitive style means you can skip all the rest. He's either just repeating what he said earlier. Or saying something he will repeat later.

Or. You can ignore the lectures and just read here

First he starts with 4 basic principles to any sort of self improvement. These all sound good to me.

1. Who do you listen to? Listen to people who have actually achieved what they Are claiming to teach. Of course this means you should NOT listen to a bankrupt convicted fraud like Kevin here.

2.trainability index. A sciency sounding term that means Willimgness to change previous ideas when learning new imfoation plus Willingness to study and learn. But which he then twists to mean willingness to pay large amounts of money ( to Kevin no doubt) to attend training courses.

3.training balance scale. Ie self improvement training should be a balance between motivation and actual technique. This goes some way towards explaining the structure of most of the self improvement books and courses.

4. Stages of competence: unconscious incompetence - no skill and don't know about it; conscious incompetence - know you aren't skilled; conscious competence - can do skilled when thinking about it; unconscious competence - don't even need to think.

Then there is the by now well known principle of "you get what you are always thinking about. " I think this was explained perfectly in a couple of paragraphs by grant cardone (you train your brain to notice and act in ways that match your new obsession) but Kevin spends several hours to layer on mystical magic explanations. He thinks he is using science and physics to explain things. But he is so ignorant about science that he thinks physics is some sort of mystical magic so that's how it ends up. I'm not saying that as a sort of insult. He comes right out and says that physics is magic that can't be understood. He also spends a fair bit of time saying that his theories are scientifically proved. And then the very next paragraph he says that scientists are too ignorant and blinkered to understand it.

Eventually he reaches a sensible point that going for goals that are too fantastic to bring yourself to believe is setting yourself up to fail. Go for goals that are realistic to the point of being absolutely believed. but get you all excited.

Then. Think about your goals as if you've already succeeded. Get realistic images and feel excited.

(1). Joel Bauer has a similar very long winded. Repetitive style. But he has both a much more publicly proved history of success. Claims far less grandiose (but still life changing) results. AND his long lecture style is part of the very technique he teaches to create sales. And I've seen him use it to sell $3.7 million in "advanced courses" over a two day period. He even provided the information during the actual sales pitch to let the audience calculate how much the advanced sales course cost him to provide. -> $1-2000 per person. For which he was charging $10000 ( minimum 80% profit) PLUS another $10000 if the training worked. So somewhere between $3.3 m and $7 m profit in 2 days of free lectures/sales spiel plus a week of providing the advanced course. And I bet the advanced course has " opportunities " for even more advanced courses.

Interesting note: Joel had some pretty positive things to say about Kevin Trudeau which both raised my estimate of Kevin's value a bit. And lowered my estimate of Joel's value a lot.

On a Similar Subject

Going grey overnight. Could this happen if someone was already going grey, was covering it up, and then a sudden traumatic event made them abandon the coverup effort?

It would fit the legend.



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